• May 28, 2015

Iowa State Daily

"Thumper" nickname has intriguing origin

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 1:27 pm, Fri Feb 22, 2013.

Theta Delta Chi has been known to the general public more commonly as Thumpers for as long as many can remember.

In 1933, Frank Thomas, who was part of Disney’s team of animators known as the “Nine Old Men,” sent a drawing of the character Thumper from the animated classic Bambi. Thomas was the creator of the character for the film and one of the first 250 employees ever employed by the company.

Thomas, who had been a Theta Delta Chi during his college years at Stanford University, was contacted by the ISU chapter of the fraternity and he came through with a drawing that contained a message.

“We basically reached out to him and asked him for a drawing,” said Mike Nilles, junior in kinesiology and president of the ISU chapter. “Only a few other chapters of Theta Delta Chi, including Stanford, are known as Thumpers.”

The members of the fraternity have embraced the nickname over the years within the Greek Community and to many students on campus, "Thumpers" is how they identify the chapter.

“When I came for Greek Getaway a few years ago, I asked around about how to get to Theta Delta Chi, and nobody seemed to know,” said Josh Carritt, junior in computer engineering and the chapter’s new member educator. “When somebody asked if that was the same chapter as Thumpers, then there was a collective, ‘Ohhhhh.’”

The chapter house pays tribute to both Thomas and the character Thumper in two ways. On first floor in the dining room, there are framed pictures of Thumper lining the walls. However, the real monument comes in the basement. There, a large painted mural of the character watches over everyone.

“I think one thing that is great about our nickname is that every year when Greek Affairs comes out with a Fraternity Guide, there is a section for nicknames,” said Dennis Groth, senior in kinesiology. “You see FarmHouse, Delts, some names that are pretty easy to draw from the letters. Ours is Thumpers so you know there has to be a story behind that.”

The fraternity has run into a few obstacles while trying to pay tribute to the character over the years.

“Back in the 1980s, we got into some legal copyright trouble with Disney,” said Travis Frazier, senior in mechanical engineering and vice president of Thumpers. “We made a bunch of T-shirts that had the picture of the Thumper on it, and Disney wasn’t too happy about that.”

Although they have a unique nickname, the ISU chapter of Theta Delta Chi tries to stand out in several other ways.

“We are all about brotherhood, and we like to be really involved in Greek Week and Homecoming events,” said Peter Ampe, sophomore in political science and the chapter’s scholarship chair. “This house is also over 100 years old, and the longest standing Greek structure at ISU.”

The nickname means tradition for many members.

“We pride ourselves on being really traditional, and this just feeds into that,” Nilles said.

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